by Brooke Thio | October 01, 2019
TAIPEI - The future is looking bright for Taiwan's MICE industry - and it's a future that has been years in the making. According to statistics from its MICE promotion arm MEET TAIWAN, Taiwan hosted a total of 686 MICE-related events in 2018, bringing in 280,000 foreign visitors and generating trade revenues of roughly NT$46 billion (US$1.48 billion).

This includes 173 conventions and meetings that, according to the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), placed Taiwan 23rd globally in number of meetings held in 2018. But many of these events were won on the back of new infrastructure and visa policies that have made the island incredibly attractive to groups and businesses around the world.

For one, visa-waiver agreements stemming from the New Southbound Policy have led to a roughly 12% surge in visitors from South-east Asian countries, in particular the Philippines and Vietnam. In addition, the US$240 million Taipei Nangang Exhibition Center Hall 2 (TaiNEX 2) opened officially in March to make TaiNEX the largest convention and exhibition venue in Taiwan. To top it all off, a slew of international hotel chains are expanding their footprint across the island.

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Taipei Nangang Exhibition Center Hall 2 (TaiNEX 2) offers 156,700sqm of floor space for events.

Building on green appeal
At a time when sustainability is becoming a priority for forward-thinking organisations, Taiwan's proposition as a green MICE destination is playing in its favour. Two of the islands' premier convention venues, TaiNEX 1 and Kaohsiung Exhibition Center, are ISO 20121 certified - meaning that a robust management framework is in place to control each event's social, economic and environmental impact.

"We constantly encourage exhibition organisers to go green with their booths - skip the carpet, pare down the designs, or use recyclable materials to reduce waste," shared Philip T.T. Huang, executive director, TaiNEX 2. "Often, this conflicts with exhibitors' desire for an attractive setup, so we try to win them over by selling them on the cost savings."

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Philip T.T. Huang, executive director, TaiNEX 2.

A spokesperson for MEET TAIWAN added that green MICE incentives are also available to conference organisers, and that it assists industry players such as event planners and hotels with developing event sustainability management systems. These efforts have apparently worked to bring in new business: Taiwan's 2019 Green MICE Awards saw a record high of over 70 entrants, including events for international clients like UK-based Bard Pharmaceuticals and the World Federation of Master Tailors.

The allure of urban regeneration
Taiwan is an expert at grafting new concepts onto old landmarks - and these urban renewal projects pay off handsomely for boosting MICE infrastructure while reducing the environmental and cultural impacts of demolition. However, making cultural and heritage venues available to MICE groups is not always easy, said a MEET TAIWAN spokesperson.

In many cases, the programme office has to negotiate with organisations managing public venues in order to allow their private use. Fortunately, it has been successful so far - and Taiwan's MICE industry growth is now demonstrating the economic benefits of offering "regenerated" spaces as event venues.

One such example is Tainan Art Museum, which opened in January with two buildings: one, a restoration of the city's former police department headquarters, the other a modern minimalist structure designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban. While it is a public museum, groups can apply to utilise venues such as a terrace overlooking an indoor courtyard and massive banyan tree in the 88-year-old Building 1.

On the other hand, there is the privately-run ALIEN Art Center in Kaohsiung that not only boasts exclusive works of contemporary art by the likes of James Turrell and Franz Bette, but also offers insight into the lives of soldiers who passed through its gates - back in the 1960s when it was the Kinma Military Barracks.

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Groups can dine at ALIEN Art Center's cafe during their visit.

"This place was dilapidated when we acquired it - it cost a lot to restore, but we wanted to preserve this piece of Kaohsiung's history," said Shao Yaman, CEO of ALIEN Art Center. In March, the heritage venue hosted a private gala dinner for Gucci utilising its event hall for 120. It also has a rooftop space ideal for cocktail receptions.

For groups that choose to meet and play in Taipei, there's Huashan 1914 Creative Park. This former colonial-era winery now houses art galleries, cafes, an arthouse cinema, and 25 event spaces available ranging for groups of 50-800. It's also located in the heart of the city - should delegates wish to go green, public transport on the Taipei Metro is just a step away.

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Huashan 1914 Creative Park is a former winery that has been transformed into a multi-purpose space with event spaces for hire.

Groups can even walk from the Taipei International Convention Center (TICC) to nearby Xinyi Public Assembly Hall, a former military dependents' village, for breakouts at its dining spaces or a quick tour to learn some of the city's history.